tv Tavis Smiley PBS December 26, 2009 12:00am-12:30am EST
[captiong made possible by kcet public television] tavis: good eveninfrom los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. firsup tonight, a conversation with best-selling author mitch albom. a veteran columnist for the etroit free press" and the author of best-selling books like tuesdays with morrie is out with another bk atop "the new york times" list. his latest is caed "have a little faith." also tonight, actor chitel ejiofostops by. the two-time golde gbe nominee stars with john cusack and day glover in the upcong film "2012 we're glad you've joined us. author mitch albom and actor chiweteejiofor coming u right w. >> there a so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing. like helping peopl live better.
butostly we're looking forward toelp build stronger comunities and relatiohips. because of your help, th best is yet to come. >> nationwid insurance proudly suppts "tavis smiley." tavis and nationwe insurance. working to improve fincial literacy and the ecomic empowermt that comes with it. >> ♪ ntionwide is on your side ♪ >> and b contributionso your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavi mitch albom is a lo-time columnist f the "detroit free prs" who has become one of the biggest seing authors of our time with number one "new york times" best seller like "tueays withorrie" and "the five people you meet in
heaven." he is at the top othe best sellerist, "have a littl faith." a true story. he joins us from new york. mitch, nicto have you on the program. thanks, tavis. tas: let me start with a crazy question. i know you don write books for the purpose being a -- at the less but there is someing about the stori that you choose nd the way you write that makes erything you write pretty much a perennial be seller. what does mitchlbom make of that? >> i'm stunned. prty much. i mean, "tuesdays with mrie" was an accident. i was ju trying to pay morrie's medical expens and a tiny book, very few pubshers nted it. many saino, it wasn't worth blishing and when th printed 20,000 cops at the beginning, well, wel be lucky if we sell tse. and everything that'happened ever since then has nd of beentunning to me. tavis: speaking of trying to pay morrie's bills, is one "have a little faith," you are as we say in the church tithing on this book. tell me about that firgs. >> well, the story moves
between two worlds. d two men of faith i those worl. anthe one that you're referencing is in myometown of detroit. where there's a pastor for a church called the i am my brother's keeper ministries. he used to ba pretty rough character when hwas younger. he was involvein pretty much everything you could think o drugs and crime and thiefy and he was incarrated and turd his life aund when he thought he would be murded by his dr dealers and said jesus, if you get me outf this, you can have me in thmorning. and he got out of it. and 20 years lat, he's now running this church in detroit where it's kind of homeless shelter as well as a church inside. only it hashis terrible hug hole in its roof. wherrain and snowiterally comen and land onhe pews. and it's freezing cold inside because they can't afford to heat it becae the heat goes up through the hole. e of the things i decided t do with this book was tithe the profits to a foundion called the hole in the roof foundation. to fix that hole and then to
fix any other tys of holes or repairthat need to be done in places of faith that help the homeless. i think at the very least, those plas deserve to be war and dry and saf tavis: very cool. ve cool. u talked -- you mentioned your hometown of droit. you still say that with a great deal of pride >> i do. tavis: tell me why wh all what detroit is gog through. >> well, may because of a at detroit's going tough. yoknow, there are still an awful lot of good people. even thougwe have 30% unemployment. and about 1,000 abandoned buildings inhe city. there's still pele pulling together. helping one another. and believing that we can come back from it. and this little churc that i chronicle in here, sort of been forgotten almost erybody. and yethe people come in on sunday mornings and aone point it was so cd in there th the homeless populion of this chuh actually built a plasti tenlt inside the sanctuary so they who have a place to bearm and dry and
pray. while the sanctuary was getting raed on and snow cing in, and freezing cold,his little plastic tent wasp front and onunday mornings, people uld come in with the coats and ddle and pray for a better day. but they prayed fo a better day in detroit. you see that kind spirit, u kind of say i'm not leaving, either. i'm going totick and fight it out. th's why it stays my home. tis: back to the text, have a little faith. who knew that mitch was such a person of faith himself? i'm bei somewhat funny here. iidn't know this about you. at you wou be attractedo subject matter like this. >> well, you were rht. i didt know about me, either. the fact is i was raised th faith as a kid. actually pretty heavily indoctrinated with it. went to religious academy when i was 11 years o and stayed there through hh scol. but walked away from ilike a lot people do. when i started to have some succesand do well and i was young d healthy and like lot people saying it's not that don't believe in g but figure i cano my way and he can go his and i'm busy and
dog ok and we'll be fine. and then about nine years ago, i went back the town where grew up in new jersey. and the rabbi of the synagogue th i had belonged to my whole life since i w an infant pulled me ide, he was 82, and he said i wa to ask you a far. i said ok. and heaid, i would like you do the eulogy aty funeral. d this just stunned me. because although i had kwn him my whole life, i wasn't particularly religious. and who was i to do a eulogy for the guy who does eulies? and so i sort of said the oy way can do that is if iet to kw you as a man. and he said acct. and that began whai thoht would be couple of months worth visits. but rned out to be eig years. he led another eight years through several strok and caer scares. and it became ke this second -- i don't know, educaon or ssoing of me in the beauty of faith,hen you see it at a small level. you know, not on the big pulpits or the gnd stage but with these two m of god in
the f hours, away from e pulpit andut of the robes. anthat really was inspiring to me. tavis: what are you -- do you take away from bei able to profile these t men who have different faith >> that hey're not so diffent. that's the thing. i remeer toward the end o the rabbi's life, was visiti him and we were talkg about heaven. and h said, you kw, that he hoped i got a lot mor years on earth so when we saw each other again in heaven, we wod have a lot to talk about. and i said, do you really think we're going to seeach other again? and he said, well, don't you? and said well, let's face it. i don't think m going where you're going. an he said, wha do you mean? i sai you'r a man of god. and he looked t me and he said, you're a n of god, too. everyone is. an tavis, you could have hit me with a bric for this0-year-old m at that point, to -- so righteous and pieus to put himself on the
-- pious to put himself on the same level as me, n only a humble act but what faith shou be about. it's not about i'm more righteouthan you are. and not mine's better than yours is but the ability to look atverybody and say you' a man of god, too. you're a child of god, too. everyone is. if we couljust say that to one anotheryou would have to treat one anher better. becae you would see the as -- as the se as you. and so you wou feel obliged to. and so i sawhis white 90-yr-old surburban rabbi in new jersey, and thi african-american, 50-year-old pastor in a bken down chuh inetroit, and opaper they could not beurther art. but yet nited by that thing, you're a man of god, too, everyone is. theyere in one very impornt way the same. and i thoht if i could stitch these two togethe then all along thattitching, are people like melf an others who might be able to lea something from it. tavis: there are two questions i want to ask you. i will split them ubut both
related the same thing. he first is -- a you didn't plan it this way but your bo comes ouat a tim if you lo at that same list that you sittop of, the best selle list, one notes ver quickly th god is under attack. i think you know wt i mean by this. therare a whole bunch of books written by a bch of peoplehat are selling rather well. th underscore theact that god is und attac karl armstrong this program has a new bo out in defense o god if i can putt that way what do you ke of the fact that you have a bo coming out lking about "have a little faith" at a time when e majority of oks that are selling have anhing to do withod happen to be boo that are attacking the very noon of god? >> yeah. i didn't wri it in response to that. tavis: exactly. >> but it isnterestinghat that happe. anit is interesting a lot of people seem to be flocki to the ea that yes, it's ok have faith. you know, eev, who i nicknamethe rabbi, td me an interesting story out an ageyift deist of hisho -- atheist dtist of hisho
would say howo you believen this stupid god anone timee lost, his brher died and the rev went to s hou to pay a condolence call and he came running over to him andery angr he said, i envy you. and the rev sd whato you meanyou envy me? i en you because wn somebody ds in your life you have somebody to get angryt or ask why. and i don't have -- i don't lieve in any of that and i have nobody to blame and nody to ask. and the rev said that's a very sad indictment, you know, t fe like you're so alone in the world. and the rev himself had lost a daughter. wh could be worse than that? a little 4-year-old girl. and too had how old at god and head said how cou you do thi why? and i asd him, doesn't that ma you think that god doesn't exist? and heaid quite thepposite. it w the fact that i had soebody to say why. and y to. and ask a pray to. that ultimately allow me to heal. and i would much rather ive in a world where felt that god was there bu maybe for
whever reason, couldn't aner that prayer than toive in a world whe i felt it was nothing at al. and i agree. an i guess we'll all find out who was right in the d sooner or later. but while we'reere, i'd like to think like he did. tavis: there are lot of folk in the sportworld like you, i thinof james brown on cbs, the nfl on sundays. i ink of the great coach and now doing n, coverage or mmentary, tony dungy from th colts. there are a number of plers, a number of athtes, that's st football. but there are a numr of atetes who have written books of late talking about their faith. again, yours is a bit fferent wi these two minters, these two minters. but how do you wte a book like this, mitch, without proselytizing? >> well, you simply know that that's n your role. you know, i was aund two very wise men of different - diffent experiences. i had donehat once with
morrie in "tuesys with morrie" who i never thought of self having something t teach about life but i had a teacherho was dying who was sharinwhat he thought. and here i wasn the presence of a man ogod faced with the ultimate test ofis faith, his deh, and i was able to write what he sa. here i was with a man who was on the ground wit a shotgun behind aow of trash cans wn he was 30 ars old about to murdered. and ask godo get me through e night. and somehow,e got throughhe night. and the next morng, decid i'm going to tn my life around. mugely inspiring thing. 20 years later he's pastor. these peop had their own stories to tell. as someo who when it comes to nonfiction ilmost like to let the other ople tell their stories and i'm rt of the person in the middle. here's what they said. yoread it. you see if the's something that y can embrace and make sense to you. you don't need mto wag a finger and tell you, you ve to read th or this is how you have toehave. and r whatever rson, the
people that have me to my books em to find something in them thaworks for them. tavis: there are mlions of folk who can give that estimony. no pun intended. the new book for mitch albom is lled "have a little faith." a true story. mitc you've done it once ain. and i'm alys honored to have you on this progra >> it's my pleasure, tavis. thanks forsking me. tavis: thas, sir. up next, actor chiwetel ejior. stay with us. iwetel ejiofor is a talented actor whose fm credi includamerican gangster, talk to me and ve actually. hetarred in the film "end me," an apartheid film, seen here on pbs. you can catch him in the movie "2012." the high-profile cast includes john cusac danny glover, tandy newton and woody harreson. here now a sne from "2012." >> we're not seeing e soil or any evidence of fcture propagation thin the tectonic plates
>> english. >> the seiic activity on the west coasts not causey -- >>hese so-call surface cracks have no nothing to d with shifting fault lines. >>re you suggesting this could be theeginning of the -- dr. helmsley is flying to yellowstone this mning to collecmore data. >> we have been folwing the schedule. you established. mr. helmsley. the most important schedule in the history of mankind. now you're telling m you have to throw it out. yes, sir. i was wrong. tavis: a friend of mine yesterda knowing you and i re going to talk that im not but i were a young actor this town receipt now would wt to be you. yowere getting like -- you'r getting althe best rol. in all the best films i mean, that lisi read a moment ago. i love "lk to me." you are amazing ithat. >> great time doing it. tavis: you run down the list of things you've beenoing and the bimovie that everybody is talking out, "2012." anyou play a scientist >> i play a geologist who bemes aware of the situation
th's going to engulf the wod. and then does. tavis: yeah. more wha you can -- you can get too mu -- give o much of this movie away but tell about the story. >> it's the sry about the apocalypse bed on the mayan calendar and a grouof people whore trng to survive the end of days. and it's jusan exciting, very fun ride, a real adveure. and someby who i've aays admire somebody who has a great passion for briing a reall amazing visual style, real visual cinema t audience and using every chnology available. to give aiences an incredible, unique experience. anthis movie is no different. it's a really amazi ride. and it wasreat fun tbe on. tavis: chris, our producer, my produc and i were laughing before we me on the set wh you. you know movie made by the same people that did "indepdence day." you ask yourself, wh's left to blow up? >> tt's true. and turns out there is stuff. there is stuff left.
tavis: and you blowp the white house. nd what else i left for "2012"? >> yeah. there's stuff. he trave around a bit in this one. tavis: right. >> and we were doing a press ur and traveling arounand it's amazi, you go t places that an't in the movie like -- we re in sydney doing a bit of press a people come to you, what's wrong wh t haor bridge? why can't you blow tt up? tavis: anything to get in the film. >> yes. tas: back to the part i raised moment ago. about thchoice roles that you' getting. obously it starts with your talent. but -- and there are lot of lented folk in thisown. in this busiess. beyond your taent, tell me, re about your proce, how you're goingbout iyour career making these decisions. becae you're making some pret good decisions here. >> i don't know. m very -- i've been very fortunatwith some of the scripts tha have come mway. tavis: "american gangster." >> and you mtioned "talko
me." i had an incredible time working on that film with don cheadle andasey lons. and i' been very fortunate in that regard. and i read scripts and i try and work out whether i want to on the adventure, go on the rideith them. and ere are so man talented ople out there. and there are smany talented writers. talented dirtors. and so if they adre your work, and if theywant to work with you, you'rjust very, very lky to be in tt spot. tavis: yeah. speaking of your mies, denzel now, y worked withwice. >>eah. tavis: tl me more. >> wel we did "inside man" and "american gangster." and "inside man was my fir experience worng witdenzel. and, you know, he's an amazing person. and he is just the most incredible actor. to be around, to watch, to len from. it's really i think every perience i have with him has been just remarkable.
and so i'm excited to see if there's anoer one in our future. o knows? tas: what's your - speaking of watchg him and learning, what's your pcess for howou learn? is it watchin other people? ho are -- conmporaries, watching folk who have ma their mark in the industry? whe do you pick up poiers and cues from? with regard tother actors? >> i think it' -- i thinkith acting, what's important -- i dot think you can take -- i don't think you cause like one source of something i think you have t use life. i really d and i think it's about experiencing life. and i think it's abo tryin to gain knowledge from athing from what you read, what you wah, to what you liste to. to find any kinof artisti inspiratn, to find any of those connecting points bween a character and thperson and yourself. i think you cat necessarily play a part if it's not in yo somewhere. yoknow, but it doesn't have to be literally th same experience. you st have to connect to a
characte emotionally. a then that's when you can go on the journey but you cannly do that if you expience -- experience life little. tavis: iead, i don't aays belie what i read so lete asyou, but i read that you decided you wanted to act when you were 13. after watching carey grant. true? >> not completely true. but cey grant istill one of favorite actorsver. and he -- he could do- i just felt he could do anything. and i was so -- he was so charismac. i s so mesmerizedy his performances. and i found him so completely beevable. and he cld do drama. he could do comedy. he cld split between these different things so fort helessly that i was impressed by h -- so effortlesy that i was pressed by him a the first me i responded to nema and cinema acting. but i w -- i was inspired to become an actor because i wanted to be a sta act. and i was inspired by ñ shakespeare when when i was studying shakeeare.
i was -- i found it vey -for years, i fnd -- when i started, i fnd that jusin english class, learning akespeare, i found it very dull. i just coun't get my head ound it and didn't understand itt all. and staring out t window. and then one day, wwere doing something from one of e shespearean plays. it was "henr the iv"and it captured my igination and i gott. and that was it. i really ran with it. and i s telling everybody that i've discovered ts incredible writer. he got somhing here. and they wereike, yeah, ople know him. and i went down to the theater immediately. and did my first shakespeare play there where i was3, 14. tavis: do you recallhen you go it? when y got what shakespeare was reallyll about, how brilliant his work was? do you rall what it was in the writing that you cnected
to? >> it was -- i just felt that there's a sequence in henry the iv part onehere --al is talking about the ideaof -- he's a prince. and he going to live th life ande's considered to be slightly ridilous. and he's rning aroundown and hs -- with people whore considered kin of low lifes but having a great time. and he has this speech aut his sensof his own future. his sense of his own --is hope for h destiny and i think eve adolescent connects to that. i think everybody feels that the pangs of beingn either a mily environment or aife environment or whatever at you're frustrated. you have so much you wanto offer. you're waing to become an adt. you're waitingo get out there and do something atever it is. and you feel held back by your age or by whatever'or maloneyly happening. -- or hornally happening
d he said this in an incredibly succinct d poetic way. and just talksith a great fluidity and a pro fundity and i s sitting there and i was 13 and i derstood it. 400 years. and i understood directly and nnected directly to what shakpeare was talking about. and so ihought, you kno he'sot to be on toomething. tavis: don't know your fu schedule obviously but it would pear to me, to your fans, that we're sing a lot more of youn the screen these days than on the sge. so given tt you started out wantg to be on the stage, are you happy with ts balane or lack thereof between ste and screen? i've been able to do a lot of plays. over the yrs. which has been eat. and, you know, i've been able toind of balance that as much as ian. and it' been -- i fell in love with making films as we. it happened ler for me. i didn immediately think of myself as film actor. and i -- and i did a lot of plays and started working the
lms when i was 19. d i was here in los angeles working on "amistad" which was my first -- he movie cinema film. and over that process, althoh i went back to londonnd carried on that phase, after that process, a little while, i d ailm called "dirty pretty things" and fell i love with nema of that and i wanted to be part of it anstill do. so i was eited to try and get that balancend try a do many movies as well as pla that iould do. tavis: you try -- we mentined "talk to me" and i keep saying i love that film. smaller budg as compared to "2012." is thereny balance that you attempt totrike in terms of big budgetersus independent or is it just about th script and what's being offer to you at any te? >> yea i think it's -- othe hole, it's ju about the -- it's ju about the script. it's aut the cracters. and i dot know. that could change. it's a kind of complicad
industry an business in that way. and different thing hold yo attenon at different times in ur life. so at could chang but certainly upntil this point, i've always felthat it's whatakes precedence for me is like just what -- wha the aracter is, whether i nnect to the story. thexact same reasons thai wanted to start being an actor is the reasons why i continu but -- and also now as well, i do like people eing movies that i find eertaining. i n't feel like every movie hato be part of aind of serious genre. but it's good to do. a few differe things. tavis: that's the rfect word for "22." it is entertaining to be sure. chiwetel ejiofo a lot of good stuff and onof the best actorsround for my money today. not that that matts but i enjoy hang you on the program. good tsee you. pleasure. thk you. tavis:hat's our show for tonight. catch me on the weeken on publ radionternational.
you can access us at pbs.org and i'll see you back next time on pbs. good night fro l.a and thanks foratching. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information o todas show visit tavis sley pio virtuoso lan lang. >> there a so many things that w-mart is looking rward to doing. like helping people live better. but mostly, we're loing forward toelpinguild stronr communities and lationships. because of your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insance proly supports "vis smiley."